Grading for Gifted:

Because Just Grading Harder Doesn't Equal Grading Better

First Things First

According to Teaching Gifted Kids in Today's Classroom (2012) by Susan Winebrenner, when evaluating a grading plan for the Gifted, there are two important conditions that must be met in order for the teacher to get the necessary buy-in from the students (and probably their parents, too):


  • The students must be assured their Gifted assignments will not consist of increased amouts of the regular subject work
  • The students must be assured their Gifted assignments will not lower their grade for their regular subject work


As Winebrenner explains, "Our goal in grading should be to record successful outcomes that document actual learning results, even for those who are working with advanced material." Each of the following sections will describe an alternate form of grading, beyond letters and percentages, for assessing a variety of Gifted assignments.

Narrative Grading

This process is best suited for classrooms where Gifted students are compacting their regular work then using their earned time to work on Gifted assignments.


With Narrative Grading, the students' grades for their regular work is printed on their report cards. Then, a narrative is added (either directly on each report card if the option is available or stapled to each report card if it is not) describing in detail the student's progress on Gifted assignments.


Address the following concerns:

  • Where the student is in the curriculum (current assignment, content, or level)
  • The concepts with which the student is excelling
  • Evidence of the student's success (learning)
  • Places for improvement - if included, there must be suggestions, as well
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Rubric Grading

This grading method is highly adaptable making it ideal for nearly every subject matter at nearly every grade level. If done well, it minimizes subjectivity and increases clarity for the students, the parents, and even the teacher. It is exceptionally useful for independent projects as it can address: process, progress, performance, and product equitably without needing to specify a topic.


With a rubric, any number of categories can be assessed. The teacher could incorporate suggestions from colleagues, or the students themselves, when choosing specific categories. Alternatively, the teacher might consider goals from the Gifted EPs to decide which categories would prove the most effective for a particular project. Once the categories are selected, the number of assessment levels is determined. There might be as few as two levels (representing meets expectations and does not meet expectations) up to as many levels as the teacher finds sufficient to assess the students' mastery in each category.


The final step in creating a rubric is the most important step. The criteria to achieve each level in each category must be described as accurately as possible. Having the students help write these descriptors can alleviate a great deal of confusion. This can also reduce the stress levels of the Gifted students who require concrete parameters to feel secure. If student participation in the creation of the rubric is not possible, then (at the very least) the rubric should be presented at the beginning of the assignment, and all students should have the opportunity to ask for clarification in regard to the rubric before commencing with their work.


See the link below for a rubric creation website designed specifically for educators.

Contract Grading

While Contract Grading is most often used at the college level, it can be adapted for use with Gifted students at the secondary level.


The first step in creating a grading contract is to determine the length of time the contract will cover. A grading contract can last for the length of a single project (one of Winebrenner's suggestions), a nine-week grading period, or an entire semester as exemplified in the collegiate contract shown below. Next, the specific criteria is added for each possible grade - generally A, B, and C - although, for Gifted students, Winebrenner suggests just having the option of an A. The student is then expected to choose their final grade for the project or term as the project or term is getting under way. Generally, the contract is signed by both the student and the teacher. However, the parents could be asked to sign the contract, as well. Once the contract is filed, the understanding is that the student will then fulfill all of the requirements to earn the agreed upon grade.


At this point, the teacher become more of a facilitator - assisting the students in meeting the contract's expectations. If a student is not meeting the expectations, the student can either be contracted to a lower grade or can be given an alternative consequence. Since Winebreener suggests contracts of no more than project length, she also suggests a standard consequence for students not meeting the expectations. Winebrenner feels Gifted students not adhering to their contract should be placed with the regular students for the duration of the given unit. Once a new unit or project has begun, they can then be offered a new contract.

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The Bottom Line

Although each of these alternative grading options comes with a downside (narratives take additional time, rubrics become subjective if not done properly, contracts require student buy-in), their benefits for Gifted students can far outweigh their drawbacks. Try one...or two...or all three :0)

Sources

"Create Rubrics for Your Project-Based Learning Activities." RubiStar. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.


Eiler, Tim. "Project Management and Economics." SlideShare. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.


"5 Alternatives to Traditional Grading Methods." SmartTutor Education Programs. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.


Winebrenner, Susan, and Dina Brulles. Teaching Gifted Kids in Today's Classroom. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing Inc., 2012. Print.

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